Saturday, March 24, 2012

Major tourism development proposed for Grand Canyon

The Navajo Nation is pursuing development of a major tourist complex on the rim of the Grand Canyon that, according to news reports, would include an aerial tramway [right, credit Confluence Partners LLC/HO and AP] to take tourists from the canyon rim to the river, a gondola, a restaurant, a half-mile river walk, a resort hotel and spa, and RV park.

The development would take place at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers at the East Rim of Grand Canyon, outside the national park boundaries, on tribal lands.

The AP story quotes tribal officials as predicting up to 3 million visitors and revenue to the Tribe of $40-70 million per year. "The tram would run from the East Rim and parallel the Colorado River before coming to a stop at the bottom of the canyon, where a restaurant would be located. A half-mile river walk, also running alongside the Colorado River, would give tourists a view of the confluence but stop short of it. The resort hotel and spa, other hotels, and commercial and retail space would be located on top of the canyon."

Environmental groups are stating their opposition.

This raises an interesting question about whether Grand Canyon Village, right on the rim of the Canyon inside the park, would be built today if it didn't already exist. If there are concerns about putting up a resort on the canyon rim outside the park, what are the consequences of having a full-blown city, with all the services of a town much bigger because of the huge numbers of tourists?

The 2010 census shows Grand Canyon Village with 2004 residents and 650 households. It contains 6 lodges, trailer village, train depot, 12 retail outlets (although 2 are out by Desert View), post office, medical services, gas station, car rentals, laundry, kennel, fire station, 5 restaurants or cafeterias, shuttle bus routes, bank, plus all the Park Service offices and facilities.

Can you imagine anyone proposing to create a commercial and administrative center like this today, anywhere in the park, let alone right on the canyon rim at one of its most scenic locations?

Can we defend maintaining a city on the rim of Grand Canyon inside the national park but deny the Navajos the right to pursue a similar, albeit smaller, operation on their own lands?


  1. Environmental groups aren't the only ones raising an objection - tribal groups in the area (including Navajo) also object, for a variety of reasons. Personally, I'm not thrilled at the prospect of that much development in and around the canyon. It's not freakin' Disneyland. But I do understand that tourism dollars are important to the local economy -- so I hope a compromise can be reached.

  2. Anonymous4:01 PM

    I find it difficult to understand how a Tribe can complain about making snow on their sacred mountain, yet feel comfortable building a huge development in a culturally sensitive area. Isn't the Sipapu supposed to be in that area. Exactly where do they plan to get water for that many people in that area?

  3. Anonymous6:34 AM

    I live in Grand Canyon Village, and we are by NO means a "full-blown city". Key word: Village. We have just enough of everything to sustain living. And I mean JUST ENOUGH. Not only that, the village evolved into what it is today over time. At no point did someone come along and build everything you just listed; it happened individually.